Name and shame: Can you go public with employee firings?

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As previously reported by HRM Online David O. Brown, chief of police for the City of Dallas has been making headlines for his transparent approach to HR: posting the details of ex-officers’ terminations via Twitter.

Brown will typically post short tweets detailing the reason for firing an officer (or other subordinates, such as 911 call takers). The firings also make it to Facebook, where the posts are longer and more detailed, Vocative reported.

While some have blasted Brown’s move, others have praised him and the police force for a dedication to transparency.

Regardless of personal opinion, would this kind of behaviour be legal in New Zealand?

Blair Scotland, Principal at Dundas Street Employment Lawyers, told HRM Online employers need to be careful when releasing that type of information about an employee.

“Generally, unless the employee authorised you to release that [information], that would be be a breach of their privacy…unless there was a lawful reason for doing so.”

Scotland recommends referring to the Privacy Act 1993, section six, in which privacy principle 11 states the limits of disclosure of personal information.

“One example is if the source of the information is a publicly available publication. If it was publicly known the person had been sacked – they’d been proclaiming it to all and sundry then reported it to their local newspaper ’I’ve been sacked by the sheriff and it’s an outrage‘ – then it would be publicly available so that’s ok to disclose,” he said.

Once an employee has filed legal proceedings then it becomes publicly available information, which is why rulings from the Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court are able to be publicly reported. Scotland adds that “if you’ve got the legal right to release that information you can arguably disseminate it anyway you like” including on Twitter and Facebook.

Scotland, however, warns against tweeting firings.

“In the vast majority of employment situations in New Zealand, there would be very limited options and circumstances where it would be justified to release that level of personal information about an employee to third parties without the individual’s agreement,” he said.

What do you think of Brown’s actions? Is he slandering ex-employees, or earning the public’s trust? Let us know your thoughts below.

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